Lynne Stewart Speaks

At the United National Peace Conference that took place this weekend in Albany, Ralph Poynter, the husband of imprisoned activist lawyer Lynne Stewart and coordinator of her defense committee, was invited to read his own statement and a letter from his wife about her incarceration, the prison industrial complex, the state of the antiwar movement, and the importance of resisting state oppression.

For more on Lynne Stewart’s case, read Jasmin Ramsey’s “People’s Lawyer Sentenced to 10 years in Prison.”

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Palestine in Pieces: Graphic Perspectives on the Israeli Occupation

When you have seen the vast extent and permanence of Israeli settlements throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem; when you have endured the checkpoints that squeeze and confine Palestinians and stop any hope of Palestinian economic development in its tracks; when you have watched homes, the very center of people’s lives, being demolished for no other reason than that their owners are not Jews; when even inside Israel you have seen the homes and villages of Palestinians and Palestinian Bedouins who are citizens of Israel  being destroyed because they stand in the way of Jewish development and expansion — when you have seen all these things, it is crystal clear that Zionism’s design is absolute Jewish control over the entirety of Palestine swept clean of Palestinians.

Kathleen and Bill Christison’s Palestine in Pieces: Graphic Perspectives on the Israeli Occupation is a labor of love. Compellingly written and meticulously structured, this book combines historical fact with narrative accounts and photographic images of the everyday realities faced by Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem in order to provide the reader with an experience-near understanding of what it means to live in a state of dispossession.

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Voices of Everyday Muslim Americans in the Aftermath of the Flotilla Attack

News of Israel’s brutal attack on a flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian aid into Gaza seems to have moved even this generally apathetic world. As the reactions of global leaders, activists, lawyers, journalists, academics and other public figures saturate the media, hope builds that growing political pressure will have the effect of ending, at long last, Israel’s inhumane blockade of Gaza.

The events of last week also present us with an opportunity to pause and to reflect upon why this attack -in particular- has captured our imaginations more powerfully than previous instances of Israeli aggression.

In search of answers, I decided  to talk to everyday Muslim Americans about the events of last week, asking each of them how they felt about the recent flotilla attack and what, if any hope, the event held for a better future. I interviewed this diverse group of New Yorkers over a period of two days, and my accounts include the voices of a shop clerk, a business owner, wait-staff, an immigration lawyer, a photographer, a retired journalist, bankers, engineers, and a number of students.

What I learned in listening to their narratives is that the flotilla attack – which has largely been produced by the media as a critical moment of rupture – is for many Muslim Americans, an event that indicates not rupture, but continuity: the continuity of Israeli brutality and injustice, and the continuity of Palestinian despair.

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A Massacre is Not a Massacre

Earlier today, I came across a short poem-essay on Electronic Intifada by Ghassan Hage, a professor of anthropology at the University of Melbourne.  He  writes, with palpable irony, about the inverted narrative of Palestine – an inversion that manifests itself in a form of  ‘truth telling’ that is tantamount to lies.

A Massacre is Not a Massacre

I don’t write poems but, in any case, poems are not poems.

Long ago, I was made to understand that Palestine was not Palestine; I was also informed that Palestinians were not Palestinians; They also explained to me that ethnic cleansing was not ethnic cleansing. And when naive old me saw freedom fighters they patiently showed me that they were not freedom fighters, and that resistance was not resistance. And when, stupidly, I noticed arrogance, oppression and humiliation they benevolently enlightened me so I can see that arrogance was not arrogance, oppression was not oppression, and humiliation was not humiliation.

I saw misery, racism, inhumanity and a concentration camp. But they told me that they were experts in misery, racism, inhumanity and concentration camps and I have to take their word for it: this was not misery, racism, inhumanity and a concentration camp. Over the years they’ve taught me so many things: invasion was not invasion, occupation was not occupation, colonialism was not colonialism and apartheid was not apartheid.

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Bagram Detainees Denied Habeas: Can we say ‘Insidious,’ Mr. President?

In order to reveal something about the salience of incoherence in today’s world, let’s examine this recent event:

On May 21st, the Appeals Court for the District of Columbia ruled that detainees at Bagram do not have the right to habeas corpus; that is, the right to challenge their detention; that is, the same right that was extended to Guantanamo detainees in two separate Supreme Court rulings, Rasul (2004) and Boumediene (2008). The Bagram decision was based on reasoning that because the prison is located in Afghanistan – a zone of active combat –  the precedent in Boumediene, concerning Guantanamo Bay, cannot be applied.  Additionally, the Court ruled that while the United States, in maintaining full and complete control over Guantanamo Bay for over a century, was constitutionally required to provide detainees with the right to challenge their detention, the status of Bagram  was a different case because the U.S. does not intend to maintain control over Bagram with any “permanence.”  At first, the logic of the court, which is grounded in Supreme Court precedent, ‘may’ sound compelling to the reader, but this is where things get sticky…..

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Blackwater’s Youngest Victim

On the evening of May 25th, I had the pleasure of attending the premiere of  Jeremy Scahill’s brave new documentary, Blackwater’s Youngest Victim. The film, which is a collaborative effort by Scahill and Rick  Rowley of Big Noise Films, tells the story of nine year old Ali Khanani, who was shot by Blackwater mercenaries on September 16, 2007 in Baghdad’s Nisour Square.

Nisour Square is considered to be the highest profile deadly incident involving Blackwater–or any private war contractor.  The government’s case against five former Blackwater security guards charged with manslaughter and firearms violations in the Nisour Square incident was supposed to finally hold private security companies accountable for their alleged crimes. However, earlier this year, federal court judge Ricardo Urbina decided  to dismiss that case. Rather than focusing on the evidence that existed against these men, Urbina based his decision for dismissal on the grounds that prosecutors in the case had committed gross misconduct and violated  the constitutional rights of Blackwater men. The administration responded to the courts decision with assurances that the dismissal would be appealed, but legal analysts everywhere predict that the case is a losing battle. And, perhaps we should not be surprised given the administration’s painstakingly apparent contradictory agenda in both claiming that it wants to hold Blackwater accountable, while simultaneously maintaining Blackwater (now Xe) as a war contractor in what can only be described as the most privatized war in history. As Scahill’s ongoing reporting for The Nation suggests, the number of private contractors currently hired by the state has more than doubled under the Obama Administration.

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More Constitutional Buffoonery…

Shayana Kadidal of the Center for Constitutional Rights speaks candidly about the latest bad joke from Senator Joe Lieberman and Republican Scott Brown, who have co-sponsored a new bill, the Terrorist Ex-Patriation Act,  which seeks to strip Americans charged with terrorism of their U.S. citizenship.

According to Lieberman, the new bill simply ‘updates’ an existing statute that has been “on the books for seventy years”. As Lieberman sees it, “If the President can  authorize the killing of a United States citizen because he is fighting for a foreign terrorist organization…..we can also have a law that allows the U.S. government to revoke a locked-in citizenship.”